College Basketball Odds & Picks for Drexel vs. Syracuse: Will the Dragons Keep Things Close?
Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Buddy Boeheim.
Drexel vs. Syracuse Odds
-120o / -100u
-120o / -100u
Drexel was supposed to play its first game of the season against a Division I opponent on Friday night against Fairleigh Dickinson, but the game was cancelled when FDU was unable to make the trip to Philadelphia due to mechanical issues with its bus.
Instead, the Dragons’ first D-I game of the 2021-22 season will come on the road in Syracuse on Sunday night. Drexel did play against Neumann University on Tuesday in its first official game of the year, a routine 103-74 victory.
Drexel will see a significant upgrade in opponent talent and size on Sunday when it visits the Carrier Dome. The Orange don’t have a lot of returning production, but they did add a five-star recruit and three transfers to their rotation — including another Boeheim.
Syracuse rolled against Lafayette in its home opener on Tuesday, 97-63, and shot 50% from 3-point range. Improved shooting will drive Syracuse this year as the Orange look to improve from their annual March sweat on the NCAA Tournament bubble.
Drexel made a Cinderella run through the CAA tournament last year after a subpar regular season and qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the first time in the tenure of then fifth-year head coach Zach Spiker. The Dragons’ two best players are back, and they’ll be poised to compete near the top of the Colonial again, as point guard Camren Wynter and center James Butler are arguably high-major talent.
Having a point guard who can effectively pass and create off the dribble by getting into the lane is critical against a zone defense, especially the SU 2-3 zone that is vulnerable at the top. Wynter is that guy, and Brown can force the zone to collapse in on him with his ability in the low block.
From there, Drexel is replacing some of the talent on its wings and will be replenishing the shooters from last season. The Dragons added grad transfer wing Melik Martin from Monmouth where he averaged 12.5 points and 5.7 rebounds last season.
Drexel had the best offense in the CAA last year and has improved athleticism on the wings to guard shooters with more length and to try and improve on its middling defensive numbers last season. The Dragons won’t be a good defensive team, but could be marginally better and do have a returning rim protector to try to prevent all of the easy looks they surrendered last season.
Syracuse is usually known for its rangy, athletic wings that play great defense with menacing length in the 2-3 zone. Offense was more of a struggle for the Orange than defense for most of the 2010s, even when SU made it to two final fours in 2013 and 2016. But since 2019, there’s been a paradigm shift for Jim Boeheim’s squad: more Boeheims, more offense and less defense.
The Orange would have missed the NCAA Tournament in 2020 if not for the pandemic because of their porous defense. Last season, Syracuse made a run to the Sweet 16 on the back of Buddy Boeheim, but its leaky defense made the Orange appear NIT bound most of the regular season.
This year might be the most extreme difference between offense and defense yet. SU can shoot one-to-four, with Joe Girard and Buddy Boeheim returning at the top of the 2-3 zone. The Orange lost their two wings, Quincy Guerrier and Alan Griffin, to transfers and the pros, and replaced them with Jimmy Boeheim Jr., a grad transfer from Cornell, and Cole Swider, a Villanova transfer.
Syracuse should be one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the country, and it does have 7-foot center Jesse Edwards returning and now starting as rim protection.
The Orange’s ability to defend will be tested in this game against Drexel, who has the pieces to attack the 2-3 zone. Girard and Boeheim don’t do a great job of keeping opponents out of the paint or high post, and Wynter and Butler are likely to try to get there often.
Drexel vs. Syracuse Betting Pick
The Dragons played much slower in the half court last year, have a lot of returning production from their top-level talent and should be able to avoid turnovers thanks to Wynter’s passing and on-ball skills. All of that will be important against a Syracuse offense that should be lethal and cannot be given any extra possessions in transition.
The Orange’s offense should be among the nation’s best this year, but they won’t shoot 50% from beyond the arc every game like they did against Lafayette, and the Dragons have the guards that Lafayette did not to make an impact in this game.
Lafayette kept trying to shoot over the zone without any real penetration into it, but Wynter’s ability to beat Girard and Buddy Boeheim should be able to put up enough points to keep this inside the big number.
The Orange are the much better team and should win comfortably, but the betting value lies with Drexel as an underrated mid-major with a lot of returning production against a Syracuse offense a bit overinflated following a 97-point opening-night showing.